Sat | Oct 16, 2021

Gordon Robinson | Why Karen has been crossed

Published:Saturday | October 2, 2021 | 12:06 AM
Why was Karen Cross expelled from PNP? Nobody knows for sure because that party has flat out refused to tell the same public the specific charges or reasons for expulsion.
Why was Karen Cross expelled from PNP? Nobody knows for sure because that party has flat out refused to tell the same public the specific charges or reasons for expulsion.

The hot news is yet another ‘Karen’ has been cancelled.

Why was Karen Cross expelled from PNP? Nobody knows for sure because that party – same one regularly seeking our votes so it can take charge of the public’s affairs – has flat out refused to tell the same public the specific charges or reasons for expulsion. But to those of us with eyes to see and ears to hear it’s obvious she was expelled for social media and other public rants against PNP leadership, particularly Mark Golding and Dayton Campbell. With regard to Campbell, her allegations on social media and elsewhere may have crossed a legal line. Whether or not her statements are legally actionable is currently before the court as Campbell has sued.

In my opinion, Dayton Campbell has done the correct thing; used the correct process to achieve the correct remedy; and, in that action, has shown respect for citizens’ (including PNP members’) right to freedom of speech. A judge will decide if her allegations were libellous.

Karen refused to be silenced even by a court order restraining her from repeating the offending remarks. For her breach of that order she was fined. She paid the fine. So far; so good. An alleged civil wrong is being dealt with according to societal norms. No Jungle Justice invoked. Yet!

But then we hear Karen is dragged before PNP’s ‘Disciplinary Committee’? For what? For social media postings? For exercising, however aggressively, her freedom of speech and opinion? Does the new PNP believe public discontent brings a party into disrepute? Or disqualifies party membership? How bad, salacious or vulgar does disagreement or expression of discontent have to be to achieve disqualification? Where’s the line in the political sand beyond which members must kibba dem mout’ or get out?

Whatever happened to the cut and thrust of internal party factional dispute? Remember when one senior PNP member essentially called Portia stupid during an internal leadership contest? During the infamous Audley Shaw challenge to Andrew Holness, ‘Babsy’ Grange said “the same persons who are now pushing to change the leader are the same ones who created disunity in the past”, which sounds like an allegation of intent to foment internal fracture, while Derrick Smith accused the Shaw campaign of wanting to allow “Alexander Bustamante’s party to be captured by moneyed interest”, which sounded very adjacent to an allegation of corrupt intent. Expel them?

Lest we forget:

• After Portia defeated Peter Phillips he was instrumental in exposing the Manatt, Phelps and Phillips saga that essentially won PNP the 2011 election. Portia appointed him finance minister and they walked hand in hand (at least publicly) for Jamaica’s betterment;

• After Holness won the 2013 leadership challenge he went to work bringing the Shaw faction under a wide JLP umbrella. He found a ‘can’t-lose’ JLP constituency for Christopher Tufton, one of his most obdurate detractors who, as cabinet minister, lost a winnable St Elizabeth constituency. After the 2016 election, he appointed Tufton to one of the most important ministries. Many former opponents, including Daryl Vaz and Shaw himself, were given crucial cabinet responsibilities. JLP united (at least publicly) behind a leader who reached out to former opponents to include them in JLP’s vision.

UNDERMINE FORMER OPPONENTS

What has Mark Golding done after two ugly, acrimonious leadership contests in rapid succession? He surrounded himself with Rise United sycophants; kept supporters of his losing opponent on the periphery (Julian was, at least publicly, neutral); and moved to undermine former opponents in key party posts, including encouraging junior challengers to senior vice-presidents. After the bitter JLP leadership campaign of 2013 during which three of four JLP deputy leaders (Tufton, James Robertson and Ruddy Spencer) supported Shaw, none was undermined or removed.

Tufton huffily resigned as deputy leader after the ‘new’ party leader requested all senators (including him) to resign from the Senate to give him a free hand there. Tufton was replaced as deputy leader by J.C. Hutchinson. As PNP president, Golding has acted so consistently contentious that ALL sitting vice-presidents resigned in disgust, contending “We concluded the sincerity of certain members of the leadership was not forthcoming, and the minimalist effort towards unity was a charade.”

VPs’ remarks were scathing: “Despite all reasonable efforts to broker … unity, there were covert attempts to sabotage the goal of peace and harmony with a plan to horde (sic) the available positions in line with previous public statements made by the leader, who pronounced a lack of trust (of) persons who didn’t support him in his campaign (for) leadership, and his preference to surround himself with only individuals who overtly endorsed his candidacy.”

In that context, Karen committed capital offences. She publicly showed discontentment and disgust with PNP leadership. She was generally contrary and diverse. But this new PNP won’t tolerate diversity. On radio, Acting Chairman Horace Dalley actually asserted PNP members can’t say anything they want.

Sigh.

Dalley also admitted PNP’s Disciplinary Committee didn’t recommend expulsion but PNP’s Executive Committee went beyond the recommendation by a majority vote. The. Executive. Committee? Not the full NEC? A. Majority. Vote? Is this the same party boasting of best democratic practices by allowing all members to vote for PNP officers? Why would less than a 2/3rd majority of the full NEC be sufficient for such a drastic step?

On January 9, 2014, after Marxist Richard Hart’s death, PNP historian and activist Michael Burke penned a historical piece about Hart’s (and three others together known as ‘the Four Hs’) 1952 expulsion from PNP. Burke:

“RICHARD Hart…was a great historian. He was an unrepentant Marxist who never denied what he believed in, even when arrested and imprisoned. While he never served in the Jamaican Cabinet or legislature, he did serve as Attorney General in Grenada during the time of Maurice Bishop.

Universal Adult Suffrage

2014 marks 70 years since Jamaica gained Universal Adult Suffrage (UAS) and self-government from England. Prior to that, only those who had land or paid at least ten shillings in taxes could vote…

Things started to get organised [to lobby for UAS] in 1935, when Ken Hill founded the National Reform Association (NRA). One such NRA member was bricklayer-turned-trade-unionist Hugh Buchanan. Richard Hart, as a young law student, made common cause with Buchanan. Hart joined the NRA with Buchanan some time during or after 1935.

The NRA was the forerunner of the PNP. But it’s not as if NRA simply evolved into the PNP, since PNP included far more groups of persons who weren’t in the NRA, such as Jamaica Agricultural Society, Jamaica Union of Teachers (forerunner of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association) and others.

It was O.T. Fairclough who got the various groups together along with others like Norman Manley, who wasn’t a part of any of the associations that comprised the original PNP membership.”

Against this fundamental historical background of diversity Burke made the following crucial point:

“It was understood in the PNP that, no matter what one’s personal ideological position was, as long as one accepted the programmes and principles of the PNP, then one was eligible for membership, and in this vein, so was Richard Hart.”

Michael Burke, whose PNP credentials are unassailable, recounted PNP’s founding fathers’ vision:

“As far as Norman Manley was concerned, a communist belonged to a communist party and, therefore, Hart was a Marxist, not a communist. Indeed, it wasn’t until Wills Isaacs and Glasspole convinced the PNP Disciplinary Committee that the Four Hs had joined an organisation opposed to the PNP that they were expelled.”

It’s also likely the move by Isaacs and Glasspole was to remove an internal political rival (Ken Hill) who was rising in popularity (literally caused Busta to flee from West Kingston to Clarendon). The other Hs were smokescreens. But PNP leadership steadfastly refused to accede until it was convinced they were enemies of the PNP, not just political threats to individual PNP officers.

Times have changed and political skins are getting thinner every day. But the fundamental question remains: Does Karen Cross still “accept the programmes and principles of the PNP”? If yes, then her expulsion for dissent is a vituperative violation of PNP’s origin and permanent foundation.

Reacting on Twitter to a July 28 Gleaner report of a St Ann man arrested after an expletive-laden video in which he criticised Prime Minister Holness went viral, Mark Golding wrote:

“Twice now the police have rapidly coerced, recorded & published apologetic confessions by young men for social media videos using cuss-words to criticise the PM. Abuse of state power, trespassing on freedom of speech, and I hope the courts will strike down this dangerous use of an 1843 law.”

In other words, cuss Andrew all you want. Don’t cuss me. Di Donkey right!

Peace and Love!

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.